It is for all: Meaningful access and affordable internet

29 Nov 2022 12:00h - 13:00h

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The internet has the power to enhance social and economic opportunities for everyone. There are numerous examples of people’s empowerment and communication developments around the globe. However, half of the world’s population still remains offline. 

The session focused on gender, addressing the fact that the majority of the people who remain offline are specifically women and gender-diverse people in developing countries. This additionally adds to the existing gender inequalities.

Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline. This is a direct result of the lack of efficient information and communications technologies (ICTs) infrastructure, direct and indirect costs, the lack of digital literacy, and awareness of the benefits of the internet. 

In October 2022, the Prime Minister of Lebanon launched the National Strategy for Digital Transformation 2020-2030 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Its main general aim is to close the digital divide.

While in the Arab region the penetration rate for women in 2020 was 56%, in some countries around the globe the penetration rate is 19%. This data was taken into account when drafting the Arab Digital Strategy. The strategy, therefore, consists of objectives that work to increase rates of internet penetration among women in all Arab countries, including rates among users in rural areas and to enhance digital accessibility for persons with disabilities. The list of actions includes capacity development programmes for women with a focus on women in rural areas; development of national policies for digital access that keep pace with the implementation of digital transformation programmes; establishment of committees comprising all relevant stakeholders to prepare programmes and initiatives that enable the protection of youth on the internet and the preparation of programmes to educate and empower them online.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has played a significant role when it comes to gender in ICTs. The main gender-related ITU milestones are:

  • Establishment of a gender task force to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of all programmes and plans of ITU
  • 2011 Resolution on ITU’s role in ICTs and the empowerment of women and girls
  • Establishment of the Network of Women and its regional chapters encouraging active participation of women in ITU activities
  • The latest, in October 2022 in Bucharest, the revision of Resolution 70 on mainstreaming the gender perspective in ITU and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women through ICTs with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality. 

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General asked the bureau directors to explore mentoring programmes for young women and girls to begin their schooling in ICTs and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and enable them to have mentors throughout their careers. The Telecommunication Development Bureau was instructed to continue to assist developing countries to expedite digital gender divide bridging. 

Access to ICTs and the internet for women in Latin America remains a challenge. More than ever, there is a need to promote the inclusion of women, especially indigenous women, in ICTs, as well as to promote equal access to laws.  The agenda for 2023 promotes the enhancement of digital rights across Latin America for all. Studies show that men in Latin America have more access to the internet and use it more than women. On the other hand, cyber violence against women and girls is increasing, especially against indigenous women. 

Governments’ sensitivity is fundamental in achieving equality offline and online. Governments need to work on enhancing infrastructure in the most remote areas. Policies need to work for everyone, including marginalised groups, equally. They need to provide equal rights and opportunities in the physical and digital space, especially concerning gender. 

The ISOC Gender Standing Group focuses its work on accessing and connecting through gendered lenses. Meaningful access means creating opportunities for different gendered bodies to be connected on the internet. Currently, the ISOC Gender Standing Group has an open call for initiatives that work on gender-related issues. They are rolling out an activity plan and are looking for longer-term partners to implement those programmes.

The most significant issue when it comes to meaningful access remains the high cost of the infrastructure, the internet, and gadgets, especially for women and indigenous groups.

By Aida Mahmutovic


The session in keywords

IGF 2022 WS 247 It is for all Meaningful access and affordable Internet